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Video Games for Mathematics

This is an event not sponsored by AC3ME, but some of us are attending (re-posted here in case more of you would like to join us):

Keith Devlin will show how casual games that provide representations of mathematics enable children (and adults) to learn basic mathematics by “playing,” in the same way we learn music by learning to play the piano.  Prof. Devlin is a mathematician at Stanford University, a co-founder and executive director of the university’s H-STAR institute, a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network, a senior researcher at CSLI, and co-founder and president of InnerTube Games.

This is the second in the six-part lecture series Not on the Test: The Pleasures and Uses of Mathematics, co-presented by MSRI and Berkeley City College (BCC) and sponsored by the Simons Foundation. This free special event will be held in the Berkeley City College Auditorium at 2050 Center Street (between Shattuck Ave. & Milvia St., near the Downtown Berkeley BART station; see a map at Please note that seating will be limited and you are encouraged to arrive early. For more information and to RSVP, please go to

Here are the rest of the scheduled MSRI-BCC lectures for the[masked] school year:

•  “Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions,”  Wed., Nov. 6, with Dr. Inez Fung.

As international, national and local targets for greenhouse gas emissions are discussed and implemented, how well do we know that the targets are being met?  Dr. Fung will show how data assimilation techniques are used to merge observations with models to test concordance between “bottom-up” reported emissions and “top-down” estimates inferred from their atmospheric signatures.  Dr. Fung has studied climate change for 20 years.  She is a principal architect of large-scale mathematical modeling approaches and numerical models to represent the geographic and temporal variations of sources and sinks of CO2, dust and other trace substances around the globe.  She is a professor of atmospheric science in U.C. Berkeley’s earth and planetary science and environmental science, policy and management departments.

•  “Music, Computing, People,”  Wed., Feb. 12, with Dr. Ge Wang.

Ge Wang is an assistant professor at Stanford University in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).  He researches programming languages and interactive software systems for computer music, mobile and social music, laptop orchestras, and education at the intersection of computer science and music.  Dr. Wang is the author of the ChucK audio programming language, is founding director of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) and of the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra (MoPhO).  He also co-founded Smule, and is the designer of the iPhone’s Ocarina and Magic Piano.

•  “Science Denialism,” Wed., Mar. 12, with Dr. Eugenie Scott.

Both evolution and global warming are “controversial issues” in education, but are not controversial in the world of science.  There is remarkable similarity in the techniques that are used by both camps to promote their views.  The scientific issues are presented as “not being settled,” or that there is considerable debate among scientists over the validity of claims.  The presentation will explore and expand on these issues.  Dr. Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a not-for-profit membership organization of scientists, teachers, and others that works to improve the teaching of science as a way of knowing, the teaching of evolution, and the teaching of climate change.  A former college professor, she is an internationally-known expert on the creationism and evolution controversy, and is called upon by the press and other media to explain science to the general public.  The author of Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction and co-editor with Glenn Branch of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools, she is the recipient of numerous awards from scientists and educators.

•  “Brain-Computer Interfaces,” Wed., Apr. 9, with Dr. Krishna Shenoy.

Dr. Shenoy, a professor at Stanford University, directs the Neural Prosthetic Systems Lab (NPSL) where his group conducts neuroscience and neuroengineering research to better understand how the brain controls movement, and to design medical systems to assist those with movement disabilities. He also co-directs the Neural Prosthetics Translational Lab (NPTL), along with Dr. Jaimie Henderson.  They are employing these advances to help people with severe motor disabilities such as spinal cord injury and ALS.  Dr. Shenoy was a recipient of National Science Foundation and Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships, the 1996 Hertz Foundation Doctoral Thesis Prize, a 1999 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, a 2002 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a 2007 McKnight Endowment Fund in Neuroscience Technological Innovations in Neurosciences Award, a 2009 National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, the 2010 Stanford University Postdoctoral Mentor Award, and the 2013 University of California at Irvine Distinguished Alumnus Award (Henry Samueli School of Engineering).

The “Not on the Test: The Pleasures and Uses of Mathematics” series of lectures is sponsored by the Simons Foundation ( and co-presented by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and Berkeley City College.

About MSRI:  The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI,, in Berkeley, California, is one of the world’s preeminent centers for research in the mathematical sciences and has been advancing mathematical research through workshops and conferences since its founding as an independent institute in 1982.  Approximately 2,000 mathematicians visit the MSRI each year, and the Institute hosts about 85 leading researchers at any given time for stays of up to one academic year.  The Institute has been funded primarily by the National Science Foundation with additional support from other government agencies, private foundations, corporations, individual donors, and nearly 100 academic institutions. MSRI is involved in K-12 math education through its annual Critical Issues in Mathematics Education conferences for educators, math circles, the National Association for Math Circles and its website (NAMC,, and Olympiad math competitions; in undergraduate education through its MSRI-UP program; and in public education through its “Conversations” series and a variety of public events.

About BCC:  Berkeley City College (BCC) (, one of California’s 112 community colleges, is part of the Peralta Community College District, which includes Laney College, Merritt College and College of Alameda. The college, which began in 1974, is centrally located in downtown  Berkeley, only two blocks from the U.C. Berkeley campus. BCC’s mission is to contribute to the success of all students and to the well-being of the community by offering the best possible education which promises intellectual growth, social mobility, economic development and an understanding of diverse ideas and peoples. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. BCC offers transfer and occupational training classes, associate degree and certificate programs. The college is an active partner in local economic development and employment training endeavors. Financial aid, academic and career counseling, programs for students with disabilities and assistance for economically disadvantaged students are available.  The college maintains a strong and unique community college/university collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley. BCC is second in California in the percentage of students who transfer to U.C. Berkeley and is second in the state in the percentage of students who transfer to all U.C. campuses in Northern California.

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  • Liz L.

    I am encouraged by folks like Keith who are figuring out how to support mathematical thinking and logical thought processes naturally through the game. I use a game called Chocolate Fix to train my students in the logical thought patterns required to write geometric proofs. It is a hands-on game but there is an app version that works very well.

    1 · October 10, 2013

    • Bill D.

      Thanks for telling us about Chocolate Fix, Liz!

      October 10, 2013

  • Lew D.

    Very interesting and thought provoking. Keith Devlin is awesome!

    1 · October 10, 2013

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